Thursday, October 2, 2014

Review: Extant Season 1

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 Stars
Bottom Line: Showed promise with some good sci fi concepts, but fell short in its first season.
Extant bowed on CBS in July with much fanfare and big names Halle Berry and Steven Spielberg attached as the network hoped to replicate its success with Under the Dome from the prior season. That didn’t quite work as Extant stumbled in the ratings and received only a lukewarm response from fans and critics (while UtD also took a hit in the ratings and from the fans), but it wasn’t completely a lost cause. I originally considered Extant’s premise somewhat flimsy: a female astronaut (Berry) returns from an extended solo mission in space and finds that she is pregnant with an alien embryo. But they actually managed to run with the concept as the show delivered an interesting first contact story while also while also merging in a parallel story about humanoid robots (referred to as humanichs) and artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, at times it seemed the show was piling on cliché after cliché in a spaghetti-against-the-wall attempt to find what would stick with fans. But Extant did manage to present its own spin on these many tropes and it did deliver that rare broadcast network entry that sticks close to its sci fi concepts rather than set them on the sill as so much window dressing. And they even avoided the cute-kid pitfalls with Ethan the humanich as we didn’t get too much in the way of angsty storylines. Halle Berry delivered a standup, veteran performance despite the fact that the show insisted she walk around with a perpetual WTF look on her face. And she had an excellent supporting cast as well that helped elevate the production. Unfortunately, though, all of the first season’s promise derailed with an anti-climactic, copy-and-paste finale that may have been thrown together in an effort to wrap up storylines because they were assuming no second season would be forth-coming. It didn’t totally kill the series, but I sure found it disappointing. The other thing I think they missed on was not playing up the horror angle. British sci fi often successfully embraces horror and Extant flirted with it a few times, which could have really taken the show to the next level. But I imagine that network executives put a kibosh on taking that too far which ultimately left us with a watered down product. Based on the ratings, the show will almost certainly not return to CBS next summer. But financial partner Amazon could elect to keep it going (assuming they can afford to pick up the full production costs), and that would be good thing because they may give it the freedom to really explore its sci fi concepts and perhaps amp up the horror elements. If this show were to survive and go in that direction, then it could turn into a first-rate genre entry.
Stream Extant and Under the Dome on Amazon Instant Video, Included with Amazon Prime Subscription:

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